When she walked into our office shortly after the first court hearing with her now estranged husband over alleged battering,Mercy Aigbe’s look and mien were in sharp contrast to the happy girl, vivacious and ‘slay mama’ reputation she has.
Mercy looked beaten, battered and broken. The visible black pouch under her left eye bears screeching testimony to her present struggle and tales of a survivor. Popular actor, Mike Ezuruonye who was in our office as at the time she came in couldn’t believe his ‘eyes’. It appeared he was looking at another Mercy Aigbe. A ‘Mercy’ who bore no resemblance to the queen on the screens. He kept muttering to himself, ‘whoever did this to Mercy is a monster. This is unbelievable’.
Truly, Mercy’s present state and predicament are unbelievable. Three years ago, she and estranged husband, Lanre Gentry jointly produced a video to debunk rumours of domestic violence. Mercy has consistently portrayed the image of a happily married actress. She is often referred to as an actress with ‘marriage goal’ in blogsphere.
For the uninitiated, this popular Nollywood actress, Mercy and hubby, Lanre Gentry have been in the news for the wrong reasons. Lanre has been accused of beating Mercy to a pulp and dangerous bend. According to the actress and based on medical reports we sited, certain muscles are trapped in the orbit of her eyes and she coughed blood consistently during the near one-hour interview she reluctantly granted BROADWAY TV.
In this tear-filled interview, Mercy remains inconsolable and sad that her seven year marriage is headed for the rocks. However,she firmly believes it is better for one to lose her marriage than gamble with the gift of life while trying to keep up appearances. Mercy Aigbe is a convert. Yes. A convert to the cause to say ‘NO’ to all forms of domestic violence in Nigeria.In her own words,she intoned,‘I thought I was going to die during the last round of beating he subjected me to.’ The traumatic experience still brings palpable fear to her eyes as she narrates the events. Not one soul in the office of BROADWAY TV was left without a tearful eye after the interview.
It was obvious after the interview that she had been doing a lot of cover-up, served us false ‘couple’s goals’ slogans for years and has a lot of sorting out to do (legal, medical and professionally.)
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Few weeks ago, you came out to say your husband didn’t beat you but you later shared that he consistently beat you. What should we believe the former or the later?
In the midst of all these, I have never granted any interview and I have never for once come out to say my husband didn’t beat me. It was in 2013 that I had one and it was about the news that broke out then that my husband beat me and we had to do that video at that time. He has consistently beaten me.
Why did you stay despite the consistent beating?
Because I just wanted a home, because I loved him because every time he beats me, he begs, he gets family and friends to beg me and he promises that he would change but he never did. I prayed, I fasted and I hoped he was going to change but he never did. My husband is a violent person and when he gets angry, he gets physical so it is not just about me. He has actually beaten a house help of mine before, Oluchi. I was even out of the country when this happened and the girl had to go to the police station closest to us to get the police to arrest him. That is the kind of person he is. Aside the fact that I wanted a home, I stayed because of my children. I didn’t want to be moving from one man to the other and a lot of people look up to me as a role model and they respect me because I am married, I didn’t want to disappoint a lot of people. Some people would probably say I am a fool right now to have endured everything but God knows and he sees my heart that I just wanted a home. A lot of people already have opinions about actors that we do not want to stay under a man’s roof so it wasn’t just easy for me to walk away.
What did you do after the incident and how brutal was the beating?
After this whole thing happened I met with my husband’s younger brother and told him that this man would just kill me one day. He is not ready to get help or go for therapy as regards to his anger so he can know how to manage his anger, so I told him that this last incident was brutal and he almost killed me. I thought I was going to die. I said to him that I don’t feel safe anymore. For a very long time I have been living in fear in that house because any little argument leads to me being beaten up by my husband even in front of my children or my domestic staffs and my neighbors. I just got tired of it. I moved out because I wanted to opt out. I was just scared for my life because a lot of people have died in this kind of process. I just wanted to feel safe and that was why I moved out. 4 weeks after and I am still coughing out blood sometimes the blood is so much. I am bleeding internally and that is how brutal it was.
Why did you take him to court?
A day before Easter Sunday I discovered that my husband was sleeping with a girl who was like a sister to me because we were very close and I was bitter and not very happy about it because that wasn’t the first time. My husband has slept with a lot of my PAs and he has done a lot of things but I endured and it wasn’t easy. I was bitter because he promised me he was never going to do it anymore so we had an argument on Saturday but at a point I had to keep quite because I didn’t want him to get physical. On Sunday, I cooked, the children ate and I served him. I told him I was going for a burial which I had informed him prior to that day. At first, he said that I was supposed to stay home with my kids and I said I had promised I was going to attend and that if he doesn’t mind we can actually go together since I don’t plan staying long. He said no problem and I could go for the party. I went to my designer’s place Luminee to dress up in case of any adjustment that needs to be done on my outfit; my makeup artist, Ayomide and a colleague were there. We got to the party late and by the time we got there they were already rounding up and we spent just a little time and we went back to Luminee’s place. At a point my husband called me on the phone to come and pick him up at his office on my way home. I told him to leave me alone and I just want to be left alone that he was chocking me. ‘Go home, I will get home soon’ I told him I wasn’t going to come because I was still angry at what I had found out about him sleeping with someone else the previous day and I ended the call. He called me again and asked where I was that I needed to pick him and I told him I was at Luminee’s place. Then he started shouting that I should pick him up from the office. I knew he was angry and I told him I was going to come. I told Luminee I had to go that my husband was getting angry and if he gets angry I know what he was going to beat me up. At that point, Luminee walked me to the door. When we got to the door I heard a car park. I started panicking and I told Luminee that I was sure that was my husband, at that point he had gotten to the door and immediately I got to the door, Lanre beat me mercilessly. He kept punching me, slapping me, hitting my head on the wall. Everyone saw it. I was begging him and scared he was going to kill me. He said he was going to kill me; he was going to damage my face so people wouldn’t call me for a job. He was like someone who was possessed. At a point I had to tell him in Yoruba that “Lanre mo ma bimo fun e, Kini mo se?” (Lanre I have a child for you, what did I do?) Blood was coming out from my nose, he kept beating me. When Luminee and Ayomide saw this I begged them to take me to the hospital. He said he was going to take me to the hospital. Luminee helped me into the car and he told them that if he sees any of them in his car he would beat them when I heard this; I stumbled out of the car. He came to me and matched me on the face. He kept beating me. I started crying for help. I told Luminee to get the security men at their gate else he was going to kill me. She ran to call the security men and when they got there they walked him out of the Estate. Ayomide had called her husband and Luminee called my husband’s friend and when they came, they took me to the hospital, Solid Rock Hospital Ojodu. He followed us to the hospital and he kept shouting that he was going to kill me and I didn’t know what I did.
What did the doctors say was wrong with you?
At the hospital, the doctor gave me drip and they tried to stop the blood coming out from my nose and they gave me injections and they stuffed my nose with cotton wool to stop the blood from coming out. On Monday, which was the following day, Ayomide and her husband were all with me and I was there till about eight o’clock and I had to remove the drip myself because I just felt I needed to report the case to the police because I thought I was going to die so I told Luminee to take me to the police station and she took me to Area F where I made the report. Immediately I made the report, I met the Area Commander and I met with one of the human rights representatives at the same station. I wrote a petition and I dropped his number with the Area Commander who tried to reach him but couldn’t, so she said the police officer in charge of the case should go with me to invite him to the Police Station so he can also tell his own side of the story. I went to his hotel at Oregun with the Police and when we got there we didn’t meet him but met his two brothers. The Police Officer, ASP Amaka called him on the phone and he said he wasn’t in Lagos and was in Ibadan which I knew was a lie because the thing just happened and there was no way he could have gone to Ibadan in the morning and I didn’t know what he went to Ibadan to do so we didn’t get him on that Monday. When we didn’t see him at the Hotel, we went back to the Police Station and the Officer gave me a note to go to the General Hospital to treat myself and I went there and saw a Doctor at the Surgical and Emergency Department of the Hospital where they gave me drip, injection and he gave me antibiotics to stop the blood. He gave me another note to go to St. Solomon Health Care Ltd to undergo some series of scans so they can determine what exactly is damaged or why I was bleeding and if I had any internal injury. I did series of tests from Brain CT scan, Chest scan and more.
Do you agree on the allegations that you cheated on your husband?
I have never cheated on Lanre and he knows it and that is the most painful part of all these. If or maybe he had shown a bit of remorse after what he did to me, I am a woman instead he went online, started granting interviews and fabricating hideous lies just to tarnish my image. He went on saying I have cheated on him several times, I never cheated on him, never! He came up with those lies so as to get sympathy or justify what he did, that was why I told him to come out with proof. It is not enough that you are alleging that I did this; he should come out with proof. He said a lot of things, a lot of damaging things and the day I read those things online I was completely broken. I never knew I was married to my enemy because only my enemy can do that. He lied that I was mentally unstable and I do not take care of my parents. He said that he has caught me with men and all those things that he said, he doesn’t have a proof; he just said all those things so as to defame my character. I have never cheated on him. Even when I was single I never had any scandal, so why would he now say that I was cheating on him with different men and none of these so called relationships got out? Is it possible? For someone like me to cheat on my husband several times and he kept catching me. Is it even possible? If you are reading this Lanre, your conscience will judge you. I have been supportive, a lot of people think I married you because of your money, they do not know the story, they do not know anything. I read a lot of things online and I just shake my head because only God knows. I give you my money a lot of times. 2 months ago, I gave you money to buy ticket for your daughter who was on the sick bed abroad for treatments. I gave you Two Hundred and Sixty thousand naira and this is just one of those many times. A lot of people think I married you because of your money but Lanre, you know, people very close to us know that you have never given me money to even shoot a movie. All the movies I have shot was with my money and I have had to work hard. I had my son through Caesarean Section (CS), I was on set not even 40 days after because I needed the money. I don’t know someone who claims to love me will go to the extent of trying to ruin me or my image. The image I worked so hard to build. Lanre, the fact is that you beat me and you have always been beating me and everybody knows. 3 years ago, I took you to Area F where you signed an undertaking that you aren’t going to beat me again and ever since then, you have beaten me several times. I know people will call me a fool for staying that long and yes I do agree with them, I agree that I shouldn’t have endured for that long but I am just a woman who wanted a home, who wanted to stay married. I did a series of interviews where I praised you but I just couldn’t come out and wash my dirty linens in public. I couldn’t come out and tell people about what I was going through. I couldn’t come out to put my husband in a bad light. A lot of things that I do by myself I would actually give the credit to you and I agree that I am a fool for doing that but like Yoruba will say “Ile eni lati je ekute onidodo” (Whatever you are going through should be in the privacy of your home). I couldn’t just come out and say that my husband has been beating me or he isn’t financially okay because I believe that a wise woman builds her home and I was ready to do everything and that was why I stayed that long.
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Has he ever caught you with anything incriminating or with any man?
No, he has never caught me with any man.
Your husband had raised allegations against some people and also said he never granted any interview what can you say about that?
He has been granting a lot of interviews since this whole thing started and he has concocted a lot of lies and damaging things. He said some people are influencing me but that is a lie, I know my husband very well but he lies a lot and I don’t know if that’s being disrespectful but my husband lies a whole lot. During the course of our relationship he has told me a whole lot of lies which I later found out. 4 years ago, my husband was in cell for over 7 months. I was in the house, I didn’t move anywhere. I suffered, I was working back to back to take care of our children and pay their fees. I kept it all to myself, why would I now want to leave him because as he claims he says all the scars are just make up. It is almost 4 weeks and I still have a black eye, I am coughing out blood and he says it is make up. If I had died he would have lied so hard. Now I can’t see well with my left eye and the doctors at the General Hospital say I have to do surgery and I have to do it as soon as possible. They even said that I shouldn’t do it here in Nigeria. I can’t see well because he broke the orbit and according to the doctors, some of the eye muscles are trapped in broken orbit and they have to do a surgery to release the muscles otherwise I won’t be able to see properly. This is what a man who is supposed to be my husband did to me, the father of my child did and he is not showing any form of remorse. Instead he is spreading lies. He has threatened to kill me if I dare to leave him; he said he will damage my image. Like he said, I am the one who has an image to protect. I am going through pains. I can’t see but he isn’t showing any form of remorse.
What do you hope to achieve with the Court case?
When this incident happened and I saw the way he was going about it, I went to the Lagos State for Domestic Violence Department, I went to see the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs Lola Akande and I think that was a week after the incident. I also went to the office of the public defender; I saw Mrs Tope Salami and I explained everything because I do not feel safe with my kids. I feel like he is going to send some people to kill me. On Thursday after the incident, I went home to get some of my things and he sent 3 thugs to the house to prevent me from taking anything. One of them almost beat me up, I had to run to Ojodu Grammar School Police Station to get some police and they arrested the thugs he sent. A man who can go to that extent, a man who can do all these things to me after beating me he can do anything. I am scared for my life and my children’s lives. The case is in court, it is not in my place to put him in prison, I have a child for him. I don’t want people to see me like that. I just want him to know the gravity of what he did to me and see the consequences. He has to.
What is next for you?
I don’t know what is next for me. All I know is that I have to take care of myself because I still cough out blood and I have to do the surgery. I have to make sure that I am okay.
Has he ever accused you of cheating on him with another person?
Yes, he accuses me of dating everybody. He has insecurity issues. If he sees anybody close to me he would accuse me of dating the person. At a particular time I sat him down and wanted us to talk about it because I wasn’t comfortable anymore. If I go out, he would accuse me, even on set, he would question why I kissed an actor or why I allowed the actor to hold me and more. He knows my job and we never had an agreement that I would stop acting after our marriage. I had to ask him if I have ever given him any reason to doubt me. He is just insecure.
People believe your lifestyle is above your income, could that also be the part of the problem?
No, my lifestyle is not more that my income? Where do we live? It is not like we live on the Island. I am a very contented person. The Dubai I went to was sponsored by Emirate. They had a package they wanted me to help them put out there as a brand influencer which was what I did. I am not living above my means. I drive an Acura MDS. People close to me know this. I am a very hardworking woman.
He said you are mentally unstable, what can you say about that?
When I read it online I was shocked. I can’t comprehend it. I don’t know why he fabricated the story. I am mentally okay. My husband knows and everybody close to me knows I am mentally okay. Anybody that wants to do their findings can go ahead and do their findings. I can subject myself to any test just to show that I am hundred percent okay. Then again, they are all lies just to tarnish my image.
Why did you stay so long with him?
I have wanted to leave a couple of times but family, friends and my mum kept begging me stay, that they were going to talk to him and he was going to change and he would also beg me after every incident that he would change, yet when I stay two weeks after the incident, he changes then after a while he goes back to his normal self. Since this whole incident happened, It has not been easy for me to refrain myself from granting interviews or talking about this because my person has been bashed. A lot of people have been reading my husband’s side of the story and they believe it hook, line and sinker and as a human being I have wanted to defend myself by going online and also granting interviews but my PR team have been on my case asking me not to talk and even if I did talk, people will believe what they want to believe so after this, I promise not to say anything on this issue anymore. The case is already in court so I am not going to talk about it again.